Monday, April 16, 2018
Yes, poetry matters: to all of us
For a last look at that white house she knew
In sleep alone, and held no title to,
And had not entered yet, for all her sighs.
Smtms, on wking, she wd cls her eys
Fr a lst lk at tht whte hse she knw
In slp alne, nd hld no ttle to,
nd hd nt ntred yt, fr all hr sghs.
Can you "read" the second version? Probably. You can get the likely "meaning" as well. But did you sense the beauty of the diction, the intricacy of one word played against another? Were you moved? Not likely.
While this is an extreme example, a rather silly one I might add, it underscores what I mean about language for its own beauty. Think of your favorite word. Say it (aloud or silently) and let its sounds take you, rolling them off your tongue and around the cavern of your throat. What do you FEEL?
My two favorite words are ocean and lullaby. I love the sounds of them, the way they fill my mouth, the way they encompass me with joy. Imagine now how these two words can work together to make something of a heightened joy through their complementary imagery. This short poem is an example of how they do this for me:
When I was a baby, rocked
to sleep by the waves, I had no word
for ocean, knew only the rise
and fall of its heartbeat, like the lullaby
heard below my mother's own
tidal days and nights. Lullabies are like that:
no beginning, no end to the soothing.
Tides too without alpha, omega,
just a repeating lullaby on the shore.
Now I am here at its lip, awash
in the music of the ocean,
lulled toward sleep
as if stilled from my cries
by an invisible mother.
Plain language to be sure, nothing fancy or hard to pronounce. It is the way the two plain words work together, spurred on to make a feeling and to paint a picture of that feeling.
Author David Biespiel writes, in his NY Times article about the importance of poetry, that: